Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi, making his debut on the global stage at the United Nations, said Wednesday that he will not rest until the civil war in Syria is brought to an end.
He called the fighting there, which opposition groups say has killed at least 30,000 people, the “tragedy of the age” and one that “we all must end.” And he invited all nations to join an effort to stop the bloodshed that began about 18 months ago when opposition figures rose up against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Morsi, an Islamist and key figure in the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, opened his remarks to the U.N. General Assembly by celebrating himself as Egypt’s first democratically elected leader who was swept into office after what he called a “great, peaceful revolution.”
He said the first issue for the world body should be certifying the rights of the Palestinian people.
“The fruits of dignity and freedom must not remain far from the Palestinian people,” he said, adding that it was “shameful” that U.N. resolutions are not enforced. He decried Israel’s continued building of settlements on territory that the Palestinians claim for a future state in the West Bank.
On another subject, Morsi condemned as an obscenity the video produced in the United States that denigrated Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. He insisted that freedom of expression does not allow for attacks on any religion.
Morsi also condemned the violence that swept Muslim countries last week in reaction to the video. At least 51 people were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans targeted in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
He appeared to have been responding to President Barack Obama’s General Assembly speech Tuesday in which the U.S. leader again condemned the video but sternly defended the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech.
Morsi did not explain what limitations he felt should be placed on free speech but said the video and the violent reaction to it demanded “reflection.” He said freedom of expression must be linked with responsibility, “especially when it comes with serious implications for international peace and stability.”